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Dodgers officially out of race

Dodgers officially out of race

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Grady Little said the turning point of the season for the Dodgers might have been when Rafael Furcal hurt his ankle in Spring Training.

Catcher Russell Martin said if there was a moment to point to, it would be when the Dodgers lost 19 of 26 from July 17 through Aug. 14.

Either way, the fate of the 2007 Dodgers was set in stone on Tuesday as the Rockies, who crushed their playoff hopes a week ago, officially eliminated the Dodgers from playoff contention with a 9-7 victory at Dodger Stadium.

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"We battled as hard as we could, but the results weren't what we wanted," Martin said. "I thought we played hard and showed a lot of heart, but that's not the goal. The goal is to make it to the playoffs and that's obviously disappointing."

In a season that was full of playoff expectations, the Dodgers were unable to respond to the bell when it came down to crunch time. After winning four of six against the Padres and D-backs on the last homestand, the Dodgers hit the road for seven games on Sept. 18, 3 1/2 games back of the National League Wild Card-leading Padres, and faded.

With the clubhouse divided and the season on the brink, the Dodgers were unable to produce, losing seven of their last eight games, culminating in a loss at home Tuesday with four players in the starting lineup who weren't even on the Opening Day roster.

"There's a lot going through my mind, and as it draws to an end, we'll go about what we usually do at the end of the season," Little said. "We'll replay the season, we'll learn from it, we'll grow from it and go from there."

The assessment by Little that the turning point of the season was when Furcal hurt his ankle before the regular season began goes to show how important the leadoff batter is to the club. Furcal, who is most likely done for the season after straining a muscle in his back on Sept. 16, had to play the entire season hurt, crippling the top of the Dodgers lineup Opening Day.

But the Dodgers were able to stay in the hunt, and at one point in the season they owned the best record in the NL. If the Dodgers started to lose it when Martin indicated, then the season began to slip away after the All-Star break.

The Dodgers lost starting pitcher Randy Wolf before the All-Star Game, and he has been on the shelf ever since. In addition, Jeff Kent suffered a hamstring injury in mid-July, and that was compounded when starting pitcher Derek Lowe injured his hip on July 24.

Since that point in the season, the team has been unable to regain its rhythm, losing 12 of 19 series and only putting together four winning streaks of three or more games.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers played like a team still fighting for a playoff spot, but even with the ace of the staff on the mound, the team came up short. Starting pitcher Brad Penny, who came into the game looking to pick up his career-high 17th win of the season, couldn't slow down the Rockies, who played with a sense of urgency.

"[The Rockies are] certainly dangerous and they proved that to us the other day over in Colorado [during a four-game sweep]," Little said. "They're swinging the bats good right now, and we couldn't stop them again tonight to win a ballgame, and that's just the way it's been."

Penny went five innings, allowing four runs on six hits while striking out just two batters. He allowed two runs each in the third and the fifth innings, and the bullpen didn't fair any better by allowing runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings.

Offensively, the Dodgers produced 12 hits, including three homers. Chin-Lung Hu, who started in place of Furcal, hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and James Loney, who had three hits and three RBIs in the game, launched a three-run shot in the fifth. Delwyn Young added a solo shot in the ninth, his first Major League home run.

The Dodgers had a chance to put the game away in the eight inning when Rockies reliever Brian Fuentes loaded the bases with two outs, but Matt Kemp was unable to deliver, lining out to center.

"I'm proud of the boys for putting together the season they did, to get to this point and to get this deep facing all the adversity that we faced this year," Little said.

Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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